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Ava Gardner


speedracer5
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I just finished reading Ava Gardner's autobiography, Ava: My Story.  I really liked the book.  Gardner's personality came through in her writing.  This is one of the reasons I prefer autobiographies over biographies, the author's personality comes through in the writing--it adds something to the experience reading the book.  Gardner's book came across as very personal and candid which I liked. 

 

What I found most interesting about Gardner's story was how shy she was in real life.  I didn't know much about Gardner prior to reading her book.  Based on the image of her in film, I pictured her being a very gregarious, very vivacious person--the life of the party.  However, I learned that the opposite was true.  She admits in her book that the only way she was able to overcome her shyness was through drinking.  She found that she was more relaxed and more outgoing when she had a few drinks in her.  Unfortunately, she developed a dependency on alcohol later down the road. 

 

Gardner, overall, was happy in her life but also lamented that she was never able to find the right man to marry and have children with.  All three of her husbands were not marriage material.  The love of her life though was Frank Sinatra.  Unfortunately, both Gardner and Sinatra's jealous personalities reared their ugly heads often throughout their relationship and during subsequent rendezvouses.  They loved passionately, but also fought passionately, and always remained friends (friends with benefits I imagine).  Howard Hughes was in love with her, but Gardner didn't feel the same about him and actually became irritated by him when he kept showing up constantly and always trying to throw money (in the form of jewels, houses, actual money, etc.) at her.  Gardner believed that Hughes wasn't really "in love" with her, he just wanted her as a trophy to carry around on his arm.  George C. Scott was definitely her worst relationship.  He was a heavy drinker who would become violent when inebriated and actually beat Gardner up on multiple occasions. 

 

I also learned that Gardner (like many other actors of that era), hated the studio system.  She hated being under contract to MGM.  She hated Louis B. Mayer.  She resented how much control they wanted over her life.  She had to get permission to marry Mickey Rooney. 

 

I always enjoy following up reading someone's autobiography by seeking out their films.  I hadn't much experience seeing Gardner on the silver screen, I had only seen The Killers prior to reading her book.  I've also now seen The Night of the Iguana and The Bribe.  I have Pandora and the Flying Dutchman recorded on the DVR. 

 

The critics, the studios (and Gardner herself) always dismissed Gardner's performances in her films stating that she was just there to look pretty.  However, I think she was better than everyone (including herself) gave her credit for.  I thought she was excellent in The Killers and I thought she was the best part of The Night of the IguanaThe Bribe was whatever, but that isn't Gardner's fault.  I thought her part of the film was very interesting and I loved her two piece/one strap outfit she wore in her nightclub scenes.  Gardner was a very beautiful and talented woman--definitely not in the same league as Bette Davis and Ingrid Bergman, but she was a good actress. 

 

I'm looking forward to seeing more of Gardner's movies.  I especially want to see On the Beach.  Gardner stated that this was her favorite film to make and it would be interesting to see Fred Astaire in a non-dancing, dramatic role. 

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As usual speedracer, your thoughtful & insightful posts are a delight to read on this board. While reading an autobiography, I too get excited to see the films they discussed.

I'm not real familiar with Ava's filmography, but instantly thought of ON THE BEACH. It's one of my favorite movies because it doesn't wrap up with a happy ending. Fred Astaire is EXCELLENT and it's my very favorite Ava Gardner role.

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Excellent post speedracer. I read Ava's book years ago and I agree it was a very good look into Ava's life. Since reading the book, I've never been able to watch George C Scott in a film. One of the beatings by Scott caused her to have a detached retina. Frank had to intervene and she did get away from Scott. George C Scott was a dreadful man, an abuser and a violent drunk. 

 

I thought she was great in The Killers, Night of the Iguana, On the Beach, Mogambo. I hope you do get to watch Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. I do have a copy of the film, and watch it each time TCM airs it. Not only such good performances by Ava and Mason, but a beautiful film to look at.

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About Ava--she also had a good singing voice (which MGM dubbed anyway)

 

See "Show Boat" (1951)--she's heartbreaking in that film.  Also, I don't know if the CD is still available--but check the original soundtracks & look for the two songs done with Avas' real voice--they're on my CD as a bonus, at the very end.  She is So much better than Annette Warren (who dubbed her in SB).

 

Also, see "Bhowani Junction" (1956)--Ava is marvelous in that film, as a bi-racial woman--she was So much better an actress than she gave herself credit for.

 

"Mogambo" (1953) is her funniest & most relaxed performance.

 

"On the Beach" (1959) is her best dramatic performance, IMO

 

See the film Errol Flynn & Ava did together, "The Sun Also Rises" (1957)--both show unexpected depth as actors.

 

"The Hucksters" (1947) a satire on radio advertising that foreshadowed some television issues--Ava shows her gift for comedy.

 

Enjoy P&tFD--swoony romanticism & MGM production values :)

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Gardner also makes for a very convincing homewrecker in the underrated soaper East Side, West Side, where she reaches a level of brazenness about her intents that rivals Joan Crawford's Crystal Allen in The Women.  That film has an All-Star cast supreme (Stanwyck, Mason, Heflin, Charisse, etc.),  but Gardner's performance still manages to stand out above the crowd.

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For the life of me, I do not understand Ava's Oscar nomination for MOGAMBO. It is, in all the annals of the award, one of the most head-scratching selections ever (although 1953 was an off-beat year for leading performances by an actress, and some of the more deserving non-nominated performances that year were given by actresses in films that didn't seem like Oscar material- ie Russell and Monroe in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, Gloria Grahame in THE BIG HEAT and Doris Day in CALAMITY JANE.)

 

She's not bad, mind you, but it is a thoroughly unremarkable turn in a thoroughly unremarkable film that is a very weak remake of a very interesting film and very good performance (Jean Harlow in RED DUST, of course.)\

 

However, she is SPLENDID in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA and it is a real shame she did not get nominated for that (in a year so weak for leading actresses that Debbie Reynolds got nominated for her thoroughly irritating work in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN and Julie Andrews won for a pretty pedestrian supporting part in MARY POPPINS.) In fact I am hard-pressed to think of a better performance by an actress that year.

 

Maybe the fact that it totters on the brink of being a supporting role factored in, I don't know...but she is hilarious, bawdy, refreshing,. earthy- and the fact that her beauty has faded somewhat is embraced by her instead of masked.

 

It's a total win.

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About Ava--she also had a good singing voice (which MGM dubbed anyway)

 

See "Show Boat" (1951)--she's heartbreaking in that film.  Also, I don't know if the CD is still available--but check the original soundtracks & look for the two songs done with Avas' real voice--they're on my CD as a bonus, at the very end.  She is So much better than Annette Warren (who dubbed her in SB).

 

 

damn straight. it's a rare case of someone being dubbed when they should have let them use their own voice:

 

 

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For the life of me, I do not understand Ava's Oscar nomination for MOGAMBO. It is, in all the annals of the award, one of the most head-scratching selections ever (although 1953 was an off-beat year for leading performances by an actress, and some of the more deserving non-nominated performances that year were given by actresses in films that didn't seem like Oscar material- ie Russell and Monroe in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, Gloria Grahame in THE BIG HEAT and Doris Day in CALAMITY JANE.)

 

She's not bad, mind you, but it is a thoroughly unremarkable turn in a thoroughly unremarkable film that is a very weak remake of a very interesting film and very good performance (Jean Harlow in RED DUST, of course.)\

 

However, she is SPLENDID in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA and it is a real shame she did not get nominated for that (in a year so weak for leading actresses that Debbie Reynolds got nominated for her thoroughly irritating work in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN and Julie Andrews won for a pretty pedestrian supporting part in MARY POPPINS.) In fact I am hard-pressed to think of a better performance by an actress that year.

 

Maybe the fact that it totters on the brink of being a supporting role factored in, I don't know...but she is hilarious, bawdy, refreshing,. earthy- and the fact that her beauty has faded somewhat is embraced by her instead of masked.

 

It's a total win.

1953 Best Actress?  Maybe not the strongest year on record.

 

Yes, I agree that it may have been a bit of a stretch to place Ava in the top 5.  Personally, I would put Gloria Grahame's Big Heat performance in the supporting category though.

 

Here are my top 10 for 1953.

 

1.  Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday (the Oscar winner)

2.  Deborah Kerr, From Here to Eternity (I know this divides the crowd)

3.  Leslie Caron, Lili

4.  Harriet Andersson, Summer With Monika (not nominated)

5.  Marilyn Monroe, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (not nominated)

 

6.  Danielle Derrieux, The Earring of Madame De... (not nominated)

7.  Ava Gardner, Mogambo

8.  Gina Lollabrigida, Bread, Love and Dreams (not nominated)

9.  Jean Peters, Pickup on South Street (not nominated)

10.  Maria Schell, The Heart of the Matter (not nominated)

 

Of the Oscar nominees, I have dropped Maggie McNamara from The Moon Is Blue.  I didn't care for her in that, I'm afraid.

 

Some runners up would include:

 

Geraldine Page, Hondo (she was nominated in the supporting category)

Marilyn Monroe, Niagra

Jean Simmons in The Robe and The Actress

Jean Peters, Niagra

Doris Day, Calamity Jane

Simone Signoret, Therese Raquin

Delia Garces, El

Jennifer Jones, Indiscretion of an American Wife

Machiko Kyo, Gate of Hell

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You are quite right about Grahame being supporting in THE BIG HEAT and Page being the lead in HONDO.

Both were definitely among the best performances of the year.

 

PS- I've never come across anyone on the boards who likes either THE MOON IS BLUE or Maggie McNamara in it (myself included.)

 

PSS- Bless her heart.

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You all have made interesting comments about Ava Gardner.  I also wonder where her Oscar nomination came from.  There certainly are better performances by her.  I thought she was wonderful in "Show Boat".  Perhaps her nomination should have been for this one.  And her real singing voice is not that bad, either.  As far as her marriage to Frank Sinatra, I do believe that each one was the great love in the other's life.  I think it's a matter of "They couldn't live with each other, they couldn't live without each other".  At any rate, some great discussion on this wonderful star.

 

Terrence.

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I also enjoyed reading Ava's autobiography, as she has always been one of my favorites. I agree she was usually much better than she or anyone else.gave her credit. I like her in all the films.mentioned, and in others, like WHISTLE STOP, THE HUCKSTERS, ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, THE GREAT SINNER, MY FORBIDDEN PAST,.THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, or THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA. Even in movies that generally s ****ed, like RIDE VAQUERO, LONE STAR, THE ANGEL WORE RED or THE NAKED.MAJA, I enjoy mainly because of her.

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I also enjoyed reading Ava's autobiography, as she has always been one of my favorites. I agree she was usually much better than she or anyone else.gave her credit. I like her in all the films.mentioned, and in others, like WHISTLE STOP, THE HUCKSTERS, ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, THE GREAT SINNER, MY FORBIDDEN PAST,.THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, or THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA. Even in movies that generally s ****ed, like RIDE VAQUERO, LONE STAR, THE ANGEL WORE RED or THE NAKED.MAJA, I enjoy mainly because of her.

Anyone with looks like Ava has more trouble than most in convincing people that she can act. I also read her autobiography. Two things I find strange--that Ava Gardner, which sounds like a stage name, is her real name, and that nobody else in her family is attractive.

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Excellent post speedracer. I read Ava's book years ago and I agree it was a very good look into Ava's life. Since reading the book, I've never been able to watch George C Scott in a film. One of the beatings by Scott caused her to have a detached retina. Frank had to intervene and she did get away from Scott. George C Scott was a dreadful man, an abuser and a violent drunk. 

 

I thought she was great in The Killers, Night of the Iguana, On the Beach, Mogambo. I hope you do get to watch Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. I do have a copy of the film, and watch it each time TCM airs it. Not only such good performances by Ava and Mason, but a beautiful film to look at.

Thank you lavender! I am watching 'Pandora' right now.  I just started the film.  I love the cinematography so far, so I'm looking forward to it.

 

Re: George C. Scott.  I can't say I was much of a fan of his prior to reading Ava's book and definitely not afterward.  I was happy to read that John Huston, to not only protect Ava, but also to complete the film he was making with Ava and George at the time, hired three bodyguards to protect Ava.  He never told Ava he was doing it and never made a big deal about it, he just did it on his own.  From the many autobiographies, biographies, Hollywood books and interviews I've seen where people speak about John Huston, he seems like he was an all around great guy.  I'd love to read his autobiography, I'm sure its fascinating. 

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As usual speedracer, your thoughtful & insightful posts are a delight to read on this board. While reading an autobiography, I too get excited to see the films they discussed.

I'm not real familiar with Ava's filmography, but instantly thought of ON THE BEACH. It's one of my favorite movies because it doesn't wrap up with a happy ending. Fred Astaire is EXCELLENT and it's my very favorite Ava Gardner role.

Thank you Tiki.  It looks like On the Beach isn't scheduled anytime soon on TCM. It looks like it isn't on Netflix right now either.  I have it in my queue, but it says "Availability Unknown."

 

I hadn't realized that Gardner appeared in so many films, but from reading her autobiography, she appeared in a bunch of films.  In many of her early films, she literally just walked across the screen in the background. She had to spend quite some time on the MGM lot doing background roles or corny cheesecake photos before she even got a role with a line in it.  She managed to slowly work her way up getting a slightly bigger part than the one she had prior, until she got the role in The Killers.  That film was her big breakthrough. 

 

vintage-halloween-pinup-ava-gardner.jpg

An example of Ava Gardner's early cheesecake photos.

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About Ava--she also had a good singing voice (which MGM dubbed anyway)

 

See "Show Boat" (1951)--she's heartbreaking in that film.  Also, I don't know if the CD is still available--but check the original soundtracks & look for the two songs done with Avas' real voice--they're on my CD as a bonus, at the very end.  She is So much better than Annette Warren (who dubbed her in SB).

 

Also, see "Bhowani Junction" (1956)--Ava is marvelous in that film, as a bi-racial woman--she was So much better an actress than she gave herself credit for.

 

"Mogambo" (1953) is her funniest & most relaxed performance.

 

"On the Beach" (1959) is her best dramatic performance, IMO

 

See the film Errol Flynn & Ava did together, "The Sun Also Rises" (1957)--both show unexpected depth as actors.

 

"The Hucksters" (1947) a satire on radio advertising that foreshadowed some television issues--Ava shows her gift for comedy.

 

Enjoy P&tFD--swoony romanticism & MGM production values :)

Thanks for all the suggestions! I actually have The Sun Also Rises.  I picked it up at the movie store, used, because with the sale they were having it ended up being free.  This might sound silly, but I've actually been afraid to watch it, only because I don't want to see my Errol looking haggard.  It's not so much that he's older which makes me hesitant to watch it (it's 20 years after 'Robin Hood,' I'd expect him to look older) but it's that I know he was ill and the effects of years of alcohol abuse had finally reared it's ugly head on Errol's poor body and face.  I am not sure if seeing him in that state will ruin the film or not for me.  Though, I did watch Too Much Too Soon and I was expecting him to look terrible, but he didn't look that bad.  Hopefully The Sun Also Rises will have the same impression on me.  I just borrowed the novel from the library.  I figured I'd read the book first and then watch the movie.

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Gardner also makes for a very convincing homewrecker in the underrated soaper East Side, West Side, where she reaches a level of brazenness about her intents that rivals Joan Crawford's Crystal Allen in The Women.  That film has an All-Star cast supreme (Stanwyck, Mason, Heflin, Charisse, etc.),  but Gardner's performance still manages to stand out above the crowd.

Thanks for the recommendation Andy! I will definitely look out for this film.  The cast sounds fantastic, and I'm a big fan of Stanwyck. 

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For the life of me, I do not understand Ava's Oscar nomination for MOGAMBO. It is, in all the annals of the award, one of the most head-scratching selections ever (although 1953 was an off-beat year for leading performances by an actress, and some of the more deserving non-nominated performances that year were given by actresses in films that didn't seem like Oscar material- ie Russell and Monroe in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, Gloria Grahame in THE BIG HEAT and Doris Day in CALAMITY JANE.)

 

She's not bad, mind you, but it is a thoroughly unremarkable turn in a thoroughly unremarkable film that is a very weak remake of a very interesting film and very good performance (Jean Harlow in RED DUST, of course.)\

 

However, she is SPLENDID in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA and it is a real shame she did not get nominated for that (in a year so weak for leading actresses that Debbie Reynolds got nominated for her thoroughly irritating work in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN and Julie Andrews won for a pretty pedestrian supporting part in MARY POPPINS.) In fact I am hard-pressed to think of a better performance by an actress that year.

 

Maybe the fact that it totters on the brink of being a supporting role factored in, I don't know...but she is hilarious, bawdy, refreshing,. earthy- and the fact that her beauty has faded somewhat is embraced by her instead of masked.

 

It's a total win.

Ava Gardner said that she was surprised as well to get the nomination for Mogambo but said she was relieved when Audrey Hepburn won it because she didn't want to go onstage in front of everyone to accept it. 

 

I've tried to watch Mogambo a couple times and for whatever reason, lose interest.  Perhaps with an interest in Gardner (and Clark Gable and Grace Kelly have been slowly growing on me over the past couple of years), I'll be able to get through it.  I've seen the beginning quite a few times, but I don't think I can tell you how the film ended.

 

I thought she was the best part of The Night of the Iguana.  I liked her performance, because I feel that that's where we see the "real" Ava Gardner.  Throughout her career at MGM, she was forced to take diction classes in order to learn how to speak without her North Carolina southern accentFor her role in 'Iguana,' John Huston encouraged Gardner to speak how she would naturally speak, forget about her diction classes and trying to sound proper.  He wanted a more earthy quality for Gardner's character.  Thus, in this film, we hear Gardner say "y'all" and "cotton-pickin" and other typical "Southerisms." Gardner's character also said "honey" alot, which is a word that Gardner uses often in her autobiography.  She addresses her readers as "honey." Which, while I'm not really a fan of being called "honey" and "sweetie" and such by strangers, with Gardner I felt that this lent to the conversational feel of her book and made her a lot more personable.

 

I thought she was still gorgeous in 'Iguana,' but her looks had definitely hardened a little--which worked well for the setting and tone of 'Iguana.'

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You are quite right about Grahame being supporting in THE BIG HEAT and Page being the lead in HONDO.

Both were definitely among the best performances of the year.

 

PS- I've never come across anyone on the boards who likes either THE MOON IS BLUE or Maggie McNamara in it (myself included.)

 

PSS- Bless her heart.

I might be the only one who liked The Moon is Blue, but mostly on the strength of William Holden and David Niven's on-screen personalities and charisma.  Maggie McNamara, while cute, I find her character a bit annoying.  To me, she seemed like an Audrey Hepburn wannabe, without any of Hepburn's charm. 

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You all have made interesting comments about Ava Gardner.  I also wonder where her Oscar nomination came from.  There certainly are better performances by her.  I thought she was wonderful in "Show Boat".  Perhaps her nomination should have been for this one.  And her real singing voice is not that bad, either.  As far as her marriage to Frank Sinatra, I do believe that each one was the great love in the other's life.  I think it's a matter of "They couldn't live with each other, they couldn't live without each other".  At any rate, some great discussion on this wonderful star.

 

Terrence.

I, too, agree that Frank and Ava were the great love in each other's life, but they just couldn't make it work.  Both had strong personalities (and jealous ones at that) and their fame and personal issues made it impossible for the two to get along.  However, they remained life long friends and continued to get together, if only for a brief rendezvous somewhere in the world.  

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I also enjoyed reading Ava's autobiography, as she has always been one of my favorites. I agree she was usually much better than she or anyone else.gave her credit. I like her in all the films.mentioned, and in others, like WHISTLE STOP, THE HUCKSTERS, ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, THE GREAT SINNER, MY FORBIDDEN PAST,.THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, or THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA. Even in movies that generally s ****ed, like RIDE VAQUERO, LONE STAR, THE ANGEL WORE RED or THE NAKED.MAJA, I enjoy mainly because of her.

You and FilmLover both suggested The Hucksters.  I'll have to look out for that film.  I hadn't heard of One Touch of Venus prior to reading Gardner's autobiography, I'll have to keep an eye out for that one as well.  Apparently, Gardner posed nude for a statue for that film, but the producers (or someone, can't remember who) was outraged, and Gardner and the sculptor had to make a new statue with Gardner fully clothed. 

 

I think Gardner was very good in the films of hers that I've seen.  She has a natural ability (she never seems to be trying hard to act) and she has a strong screen presence. 

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Anyone with looks like Ava has more trouble than most in convincing people that she can act. I also read her autobiography. Two things I find strange--that Ava Gardner, which sounds like a stage name, is her real name, and that nobody else in her family is attractive.

Agreed.  It seems that many of the actors of the time with extraordinary good looks seemed to have trouble being taken seriously.  These actors (more so with women than men) are hired just to look pretty in the scene.  Ava was the seventh and last child of her parents.  Her next closest sibling in age to her was still like 5-6 years older--so even though Ava had six siblings, they were so much older than her that she was pretty much an only child.  Her sister, "Bappie" as Ava called her, sounds like she was the closest to Ava (and followed her all over the world) and she was like 15-16 years older.  Nobody else in the family looks anything remotely like Ava.  She sure lucked out when the genes were passed out.

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speedracer5--"The Hucksters" (1947) is airing on TCM Monday, August 3rd, at 12:45 a.m.--thought you'd want to know :)

Thanks! I'll have to set my DVR up for that! Ooh though it's actually on at 9:45pm my time, I could probably watch it live!

 

Days like SUTS, makes me wish that I still had summer vacation.  Darn work getting in the way!

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in a year so weak for leading actresses that Debbie Reynolds got nominated for her thoroughly irritating work in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN

 

ouch smiley-sad006.gif

 

and Julie Andrews won for a pretty pedestrian supporting part in MARY POPPINS.

 

OUCH!! smiley-sad017.gif

 

Don't lament over Ava's "cheesecake" early in her career. For a shy person, this sort of "quiet exhibition" is a great confidence booster. It gets you used to being scrutinized, primped and comfortable being "looked at". 

 

While I think Ava is gorgeous, there is something un-glamorous about her. It could have been the lighting or her make-up, but she came across as pretty ordinary in movies to me. Although I confess, I haven't seen many of her films.

 

I didn't like MOGAMBO at all, mostly because of the clumsily inserted Africa shots. Gable's age was far worse than Ava's imho. Never seen EAST SIDE WEST SIDE and am excited to look it up.

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